Swiss Re sees corporate insurance in Asia as a major growth engine, says new APAC head

Head of Asia Pacific at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions Fred Kleiterp (pictured) believes that his company’s Asia-Pacific “regionalisation effort”, which began in 2010, is on track but still has a long way to go.

This is the way he likes it, Kleiterp says, as he and his company are “in Asia with a very long-term focus”. “We are here to stay, to use that term,” he says. “That means we look at markets in the region as truly strategic, not just for 2014 or 2015.

“We’re not looking to make quick decisions, we’re looking to make robust decisions that ensure that we’re going to be here in the future decades.”

Kleiterp has now been in Singapore for six months, having moved from his Zurich-based position as Swiss Re’s head of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). “Before 2011 I did both Asia and EMEA, so I’m not completely new to the region,” he says.

“I’ve worked in the region before, but this is first time that I’ve lived here. That is the key difference for me.”

The challenge for the corporate solutions business unit is to overcome the fact that Swiss Re is primarily known as a reinsurance company. “There’s good reason for that,” Kleiterp says. “I mean, we’ve been in that business for 150 years this year, and if that means that sometimes it takes a little longer, that’s what we will accept.

“But Swiss Re has been active in corporate insurance for more than two decades and for that we now have the corporate solutions business unit.”

Engine for growth

The Dutch national acknowledges that before the company’s corporate solutions growth strategy was employed, Swiss Re was primarily focussed on wholesale placements in Asia. “So that’s large, complex risks through wholesale channels,” he explains. “Of course, London always plays a very key role in that space, as well as New York and Singapore.”

Now, Kleiterp says, he sees corporate solutions as “engine for growth” in Asia. “We’re looking to expand that business,” he adds. “I think we have a lot to offer to large corporations that are in need of high quality capacity.

“We have good financial stability and large net capacity. Net is important to note here because as a reinsurance group we don’t buy external reinsurance, so when clients place risks with corporate solutions, they know where it goes, it stays with us. I think for larger companies that is increasingly important these days.”

On the basis of that, Kleiterp says, Swiss Re offers a range of products, such as “property and casualty, all special lines, as well as ‘non-standard solutions’ as we call them”.

“Really, we base that on the knowledge and expertise that we have as a group,” he says.

“We make that available to corporations; big underwriting expertise and innovation capabilities to structure solutions for companies that really add value.”

Key markets

The Swiss Re corporate solutions unit now has licences in Australia, Japan and Singapore. Offices can also be found in Beijing, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Seoul. “These markets we approach on a fronted basis,” Keliterp explains, “but we’re looking to expand in the key markets of the region and to become better anchored as a regional player.”

Kleiterp points out that Swiss Re has been working on obtaining a licence in China since 2010 and has designs on other high-growth markets in the region. “There are many of these, so we have to prioritise there,” he says.

“We can’t do everything in one go, but we will continue to invest into the high-growth markets of the Asia-Pacific region when it comes to additional offices, local presence, licences and people.”

Kleiterp says it is clear that markets in Asia will play a very important role in the global economy. “With GDP growth comes increased commercial insurance markets as well,” he says. “It also comes with increasing international exposure, which for insurance companies is an opportunity.”

There is an increasing understanding in Asia of corporate risk management and the value that insurance plays in addressing the total cost of risks to the company, Kleiterp adds. “While the awareness is growing, there are also challenges such as natural catastrophes and a complex interdependency of risks,” he says. “The increasingly complicated risk landscape is a challenge.”

Kleiterp cites product liability and D&O as growth areas, primarily due to increased globalisation. “There are also new and emerging risks like cyber and food security, to name just two,” he says.

“There is a large opportunity, and we’re committed to helping solve those issues with companies that are active in the region.”